Creating loyal and happy customers isn’t just a good idea, it could actually save your company loads of money. According to Harvard Business Review, it can be up to 25 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one. Investing your time in creating a positive experience for your current customers is the best way to create sustainable profit for your business, no matter what kind of product or service you offer.

Over the past few months, I’ve become a client experience junkie. I’ve been reading about the most successful companies out there, and how they handle (and obsess over) customer happiness. I’ve been researching the specific things that make a company like Starbucks a place that people return to day after day. I’ve looked into the strategies that Zappos has implemented to earn a massive 75% customer return rate, with loyal customers that can’t stop coming back to the site because of their incredible user experience. Zappos has a shockingly low marketing budget, because they spend all their energy delighting their customers, and the word-of-mouth power of happy customers is all the marketing they need. So, what can we learn from delightful companies? 

online customer service

Here are four ways to keep your customers coming back:

1. Make Every Customer Feel Like a VIP

No one wants to feel like they’re just one of a hundred clients in your queue. People actually want to be treated like people. (Brand new information, I know.) None of us are surprised by that statement, but it’s easy for businesses to get hyper-focused on productivity and lose that personal touch. There’s a reason that you can order a quad venti two-pump caramel one-pump mocha frappuccino with light whip and extra caramel drizzle without getting a massive eye roll from your barista at Starbucks. They believe in “however you want it” because they know how fabulous you feel walking away with that frap. VIP experience for the win.

Here’s the key. It’s possible to stay efficient and make a client feel cared for. Create processes for everything. Set reminders to check in with each of your clients on a regular basis. Put yourself in the client’s shoes, and think about how they could feel cared for and welcomed at every single stage of their process. Then create a repeatable system so that it’s easy to execute, no matter how many clients you have. A VIP experience isn’t impossible for high-capacity companies. It just takes a little extra intentionality.

2. Make a Personal Connection (People Return to Friends, Not Strangers)

Let’s say Joe Schmo walks into your office tomorrow morning. He’s visibly tired, and maybe even a little frustrated or overwhelmed. It was rainy out there, and he stepped in a puddle. Bummer. You hand him a support ticket and tell him that the next representative will be with him in approximately twelve minutes. It takes twenty minutes for someone to come talk to him. Update: Joe’s ticked.

Don’t let Joe get ticked. Imagine this instead. Joe walks in. You look him in the eye, greet him by name, and give him a good firm handshake (or even a hug, if you really want to spice things up). You offer him a cup of coffee, and invite him to sit in a nice comfy chair. As you start to chat, you notice his wet boot. So you ask him about his morning, he explains how much of a train wreck it was, and you express your sympathy. Update: Joe’s your biggest fan. His morning just took a positive turn. And you haven’t even solved his problem yet.

Treating a client like a valued participant in your company really matters. It makes a huge difference. When a person knows that you care about them beyond the paid invoice, things change because you’ve earned something really valuable: trust. Building this kind of trust will make your clients come back again and again, even if you don’t offer the lowest prices around.

A few tips to make this process easier: When someone calls your office phone, write down their name as soon as you hear it. Use it a few times in your conversation. Ask a few creative questions (think beyond “How’s your day going?”). You could even keep a log of client information that you pick up in conversation. How great would it feel if you checked in on a client’s sick kid or new dog, even after months of not hearing from them? These are huge differentiators that will set you apart from most other companies.

3. Create Services for Every Step of the Business Life Cycle

A great question to ask yourself as you build out your services is, “Have I built this company so that people can keep coming back?” This has been a key component of JCI’s success over the years. After we set a client up with an awesome website, many times they’re ready to take the next step in their marketing strategy. At that point we can set them up with high-quality print work, an SEO migration, or even a full-fledged Inbound Marketing campaign. Over the years they keep coming back, needing new business cards or for a little facelift on their site. Many of our clients have started second or third businesses, and guess who they called first? As you build and grow your company, think about how you can offer solutions for your customers after the initial sale. If you gave them a positive experience with the first project, they’ll be much more likely to return to your company instead of someone they’ve never purchased from before. People stick to what they know and trust. There’s a reason I go to Trader Joe’s every week instead of trying out a new store every time I need groceries. Plus, you just can’t beat cookie butter ice cream.

Big key here: Make sure they know what you have to offer! You don’t have to be a slimy salesman to let your customers know that you have an additional product or service that they may love. Don’t be afraid to showcase what you can do. It may be exactly what they had no idea they were looking for.

4. Check In Periodically, and Don’t Be Salesy

Let’s throw it back to Joe Schmo for a minute. About six months after his brand new website goes live, you give him a phone call one day, just to see how things are going. You ask how he’s been doing with his site, and if there are any problems you can help resolve. You spend some time switching out some photos, or editing some copy, and finish off the call with a good, “Hey, remember that one time when you came into the office with a wet boot?” Classic.

A simple check-in call every now and then shows your customers that you care about their long-term success, not just their money. Use those notes that you collected in Step 3 and ask about specific things you know they care about. No need to be creepy (there’s definitely potential for creep here), just be caring. Even if you don’t offer a new product or service to them, they will be so much more likely to come to you for services once you’re back at the front of their mind.

Final Thoughts

Client experience can feel like a nebulous, overwhelming aspect of your business. You might look at your client process compared to Zappos and feel like you’ll never get on their level. Well, Zappos is Zappos and you are not. But there are all kinds of small adjustments that you can implement to take your services to the next level and consistently delight your customers. Just start somewhere. Start looking for opportunities to delight the people that walk through your door (look out for those Joe Schmo moments), and soon enough you’ll build a client base that is happy to brag about you to whenever they find the opportunity. Let them brag. You’re worth it.

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